Covid-19 and the ongoing battle with the virus forced many consumers to re-evaluate what they do to increase their chances of staying healthy. Personal hygiene and following government guidelines when it comes to social distancing is one way, but what about health specifically?
Conversations surrounding the topic of immunity exploded online in the first 6 months of the year, moving from largely informative media sources in 2019 to conversional social media channels like Twitter and Instagram in the first half of 2020. This demonstrates the increased interest and desire consumers have to explore opportunities to boost their chances of staying healthy and immune. Understanding the topic through their eyes is key for brands wanting to meet expectations and expand their product range in that space.
We looked at data relating to immunity gathered over the last 24 months, across locations (Europe and US) and audience groups. Focusing on food and CPG categories specifically, we then constructed the below guide for brands wanting to leverage social intelligence and real-time consumer research. Here are the 5 steps to follow if you're considering entering or expanding your immunity offer.
Platform breakdown, Immunity posts in English
1. Nobody talks about immunity - know what the real consumer need is
This sounds like a sweeping and discouraging statement but let me explain. When reviewing online conversations relating to the subject of immunity, we noticed that specific words and phrases used by consumers offer a broad range of themes and rarely refer to “immunity” itself. Instead, personal perceptions and individual understanding of what "being immune" means is often expressed and discussed. That’s what brands must focus on and what should form the base of their research.
The process of gathering social data is spontaneous and insights that result from it are unpromoted - this is a huge advantage of social intelligence, one not replicated in other research methodologies. Consumers won’t use phrases brands are used to, corporate jargon or marketing slogans have no place on personal social media. Instead, we often see what might at first appear to be a random collection of phrases, words and hashtags brands didn’t realize existed.
For immunity specifically, we turned this collection into grouped categories which significantly contribute to online volumes. Depending on a audience segment and a tribe, hierarchy and importance of those will differ.
- Body cleansing
- Physical fitness
Whilst it might be challenging to see an immediate connection of these with our body's immune system, consumers undoubtedly see that link. And that’s what every forward thinking brand should prioritize. These categories themselves straight away contribute to the innovation cycle, each representing a possibility of a unique product range and offer.
2. Understand goals and motivations to find the hook
The themes highlighted above, although not exhaustive, give an immediate insight into what immunity means to the modern consumer. We were able to identify them by exploring and analyzing data relating to motivations and a simple yet important question: “Why is immunity important”?
The next step is understanding what are the key objectives consumers discuss, and how those differ depending on location, life stage and personal circumstances. This is where analysis of different demographics and bespoke audience segments come to play. For the purpose of this guide, I’ve chosen two examples to help demonstrate my point.
- The wish to live a long and healthy life, not just for themselves but the family, was the most prominent across audiences in the US and Europe - certainly as we look at the data spanning the last 24 months. On average, almost a third (30%) of posts related to this factor. The drivers vary greatly. From setting the right example to parents wanting to see their children grow old - the short and long term scenarios must be considered.
- Feeling good about oneself, a journey including body and mind wellbeing, is second most prominent motivator within the immunity category. From what we observed, this goal is more relevant to audiences in the US who discuss their wellbeing journeys more openly than those based in Europe, especially some of the markets in continental Europe. Choosing this as a hook will mean careful consideration of cultural differences.
3. Increase relevance and competitive edge by addressing pain points directly
Pain points and unmet needs can be identified easily through consumer’s social media and online activities. From reviews and feedback on specific, already used products to community conversations highlighting every day challenges - the resources are there to be explored.
Within the immunity conversation specifically, we can see a number of unmet needs as we analyze selected consumer journeys. For those who strive to be a better version of themselves, for example, both physical and mental wellbeing is crucial. From stress and anxiety caused by a professional career to the feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed or incapacitated due to personal troubles - consumers are becoming opinionated champions who candidly discuss what was previously seen as a taboo.
Those on a journey to protect their health focus more on functional benefits. Pain points often highlighted in relating conversations include infections and viruses (boosted significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak), addictions including smoking or drinking (even if not seen as a serious illness but a temporary effect of lockdown), allergies or air pollution.
4. See where you fit and offer solutions making a real impact
We’re able to also identify overarching motivations consumers express when discussing immunity online. Even though these are universal (to an extent), techniques and methods used to achieve the ultimate goals vary significantly. Offering solutions to specific problems and enabling change possible in consumers' personal circumstances is certainly what will make a brand stand out.
Healthy diet is seen as an immunity booster by many. The importance of the right nutrition, natural ingredients as well as specific diets such as paleo or vegan can contribute to the solution consumers seek. Conversations featuring the topic of a healthy diet are rich in insight. Before the pandemic outbreak, many searched for healthy breakfast alternatives which fit a busy, on the go lifestyle (breakfast as mentioned in more than a quarter, 26%, of diet posts on average). This changed during lockdown as working from home and homeschooling meant priorities and time available changed, even if only short term.
Within the diet conversation, we’ve observed a lot of focus on topics highlighted at the beginning of this article, namely cleansing, detox and going back on track. This was particularly the case as the lockdown restrictions eased and consumers started evaluating the amount of unhealthy snacks and alcohol consumed during the early months of the pandemic.
Tracking methods and solutions in real time means brands can quickly and easily adjust communication strategy but also inform product innovation cycles. Comparing seasonal behaviours and habitual changes over an extended period of time, and combining these results with predictive analysis means trends can be identified before they become mainstream. Thus in time to impact product launch.
5. Match your distribution channels to consumer lifestyle
Shopping preferences changed significantly for many - not just in the last couple of years but in the space of the last 6 months. Online shopping, reserved previously mainly for fashion and beauty brands, is now a preferable way to spend money.
Explore channels frequented by your target audiences and understand why they chose them when it comes to shopping. And don’t forget the reviews on those sites. To complete the cycle and continue to optimize not only communication strategies but products themselves, stay on top of both positive and negative opinions.
Speed, scale and efficiency of social intelligence encourage innovation
We will continue exploration of the immunity trend and the opportunities it presents. In the next article of this series, I'll dive specifically into ingredients. If you want to know what do consumers think about vitamins and why zinc and microbiotics topped volume charts - come back!